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02.04.2014 REVIEW

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing (installation view), 2014. Foto: Kunstraum.

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing

Jeppe Ugelvig has reviewed the current group exhibition at Kunstraum in London, curated by the two Danish curators Mette Kjærgaard Præst and Mette Woller

AF Jeppe Ugelvig

KUNSTRAUM
15a Cremer Street, London E2 8HD, W: kunstraum.org.uk
Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing
Søren Aagaard, Magnus Clausen, Robert Kjær Clausen, Steffen Jørgensen, Peter Larsen, Jørgen Michaelsen, Allan Nicolaisen, Carl Palm, Fredrik Paulsen, Anna Margrethe Pedersen, Merete Vyff Slyngborg and Ditte Boen Soria
Curators: Mette Kjærgaard Præst, Mette Woller
22.02.2014 - 05.04.2014

In an intimate East London gallery, the two young Danish curators Mette Kjærgaard Præst and Mette Woller have curated Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing, a group exhibition about a concept so seemingly generic as ‘romance’ – a topic often considered clichéd and exhausted to death. However, showcasing collaborative work from 12 Scandinavian artists, the show proves not only that love is a legitimate subject of art, but also that it can be incorporated into the art experience itself, eventually proposing a socialization of the gallery, making it a potential meeting place.

To enter the exhibition, you are asked to take of your shoes before making your way through a heavy set of curtains, separating the small exhibition space from the outside world. The floor is carpeted in an off-white ultra-soft material, and I encounter the first art piece as I sit down on a centrally-positioned rocking bench in the middle of the room – especially realized for the exhibition by designer Fredrik Paulsen and artist Carl Palm. If one person sits on the Bench (as it is appropriately entitled), the tilting is easily controlled, but as soon as two or three individuals sit on it, a negotiation of order and rhythm is required to maintain balance. The audience is obliged to communicate with each other on a intimate physical level whilst watching three videos projected consecutively on the walls of the room, stimulating a collective cinematic slumber in the dimly lit and comfortable space – far, far away from the clean, intellectual standardized gallery space we know as the ‘White Cube’ exhibition format.

Historically, the role of the museum was that of a public space, mimicking the park, where various forms of public activities took place. The museum was a place to see art, but also a place to flirt, play, talk, laugh – interactions that go beyond what we deem appropriate in an ‘art space’ today. The exhibition is a development rather than a retreat to this exhibition format, considering how such activities can be included into a contemporary context. With the carpeted floor, the dimmed lighting and the rocking bench, the show brings reminiscence to a living room or even a cinema, spaces that are essentially social spaces; feeling at home is perhaps the effect of such curatorial gestures, inevitably changing the way we perceive and understand the art in front of us.We discuss these curatorial gestures as I meet the homonymous curator-duo Mette and Mette after an hour behind the curtain (slightly dazed), in many ways an embodiment of their own and collective research. Graduates from the MA Curating Contemporary Art at London’s Royal College of Art and the MA History of Art, Curating and Cultural Heritages from University of Copenhagen respectively, they have worked for prestigious institutions and galleries in Denmark since graduating. For her final thesis, Woller investigated the ‘White Cube’ as standardized exhibition format, and the show is, to some extent, a response to this.

We discuss ‘romance’ as conceptual framework in contemporary art – a notably absent theme, having somehow developed into a postmodern taboo since 60’s conceptual art distanced us to any emotional (non-intellectual) art experience. Showcasing collaborative work from 12 Scandinavian artists, the pieces take a number of approaches to the romantic encounter. The three video pieces each reflect on flirting – whether it be the pre-conceived Hollywood-narrated flirt or a romance that is mediated through, for example, dance (as seen in the piece ‘Shall we dance?’) or art itself. The 15-minute film ‘Stella and Florence Syndrome’ portrays a couple interacting as they visit an exhibition, comparing the feeling of falling in love with someone with the Florence syndrome, a psychosomatic phenomena that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and even fainting when an individual is exposed to great beauty or art. Love is emotional as well as intellectual, and it is this mind-and-body mix up that is so fascinating in an art context; what makes you love an art piece, and can this experience ever be romantic?

Whilst ‘love’ is new conceptual land for the curators, Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing is only the first installment of a series of projects they plan to realize about the topic, as the small show only deals with a limited, heteronormative kind of love story. The possibilities are many, and while we await new projects from the talented duo, Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing is a well-conceived and intelligent entrance to the subject.

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing is open until April 5, 2014 

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing (installation view), 2014. Foto: Kunstraum.

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing (installation view), 2014. Foto: Kunstraum.

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing (installation view), 2014. Foto: Kunstraum.

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing (installation view), 2014. Foto: Kunstraum.

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing (installation view), 2014. Foto: Kunstraum.

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing (installation view), 2014. Foto: Kunstraum.

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing (installation view), 2014. Foto: Kunstraum.

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing (from the opening) Foto: Kunstraum.

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing (from the opening) Foto: Kunstraum.

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing (from the opening) Foto: Kunstraum.

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing (from the opening) Foto: Kunstraum.

Flirting, playing, eating, drinking, talking, laughing (from the opening) Foto: Kunstraum.

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